Tips on Working With Teens: Do not try to be cool! You are not cool – and never will be!

If you were cool you may never have become a librarian, we are never cool but we ARE completely awesome in many other ways!

Cool is by nature exclusionary – and the library is used largely (but not exclusively) by uncool kids – the geeks, outsiders and young people that want a place where their bullies may not think of looking for them. If you exude coolness it may scare them off as only cool kids mingle with cool people.

If you target the in crowd first you will limit the growth of the group to those that are in their favour and the library group may become just another clique where the outsiders are marginalised.

Be a geek, this is easy as almost everyone is a geek these days, be your natural slightly odd self – most of the best librarians I know and spend time with are painfully uncool in all the best ways; they are also magnificent when it comes to working with young people.

Eventually the library teens will accept you as one of their own and start trusting you and your suggestions on what to read and do!

Being uncool you will not be a threat to the cool kids and they will eventually take pity on you and talk to you. Once the first one starts talking the others will eventually come round and start engaging

One of the perks of being uncool is that kids will feel secure enough to laugh with you and, at times at you but you will be their librarian and they will trust you and love you for as long as you are there!

Once you have done this you will have started transcending the cool barrier, the kids you work with will eventually start saying that you are cool (it may take a year or so)but you must remind them that you are not cool – you are AWESOME – as is everybody that uses the library! When teens realise that they are awesome they will finally start realising that cool is not really that cool.

5 Thoughts on “Tips on Working With Teens: Do not try to be cool! You are not cool – and never will be!

  1. Ruan Peat on May 11, 2012 at 9:59 am said:

    Greeted today by one of the minginalised kids who struggles in classes and with behaviour, but has know the library as a safe haven since he arrived, by the phrase ‘Fit’s a criac? Miss’ which is such a win, the persona of librarian I have to have to keep me from being overwhelmed has been seen through by the right kids!

  2. Either I’m not one of the best librarians you know, or I’m ‘painfully uncool’! I didn’t think I was that bad…I love it when kids in my library say ‘Miss, you’re actually really cool you know’. I just say ‘I try my best’ and then they laugh at me 🙂

  3. Jayne Davidson on May 13, 2012 at 12:43 pm said:

    That is brilliant Matt and so true. It really focuses on this dilemma we have as librarians working with teens, the term ‘librarian’ conjuring up all sorts of negative stereotypical connotations. Your article also confirmed my conviction that the library should still be known as “the library” and we should be confident enough in our own skills to be able to change young people’s attitudes to it by what we do for and with them. If you don’t mind I am slightly altering your quote about librarians not being cool to “Libraries aren’t cool …. They’re awesome” as I feel a poster coming on!

    • mattlibrarian on May 13, 2012 at 3:12 pm said:

      Hi Jayne please feel free to use anything on my site that you would like! Teen Librarian is operated on a copyleft policy

      ©

      If you could e-mail me a copy of the poster (pdf, jpeg or doc format are fine) to share with other librarians I would appreciate it and possibly a picture of the poster once it is up in your library!

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